Archive for September, 2010


Tonight, I am writing to you from the guest room of my sister’s house in Arlington, Texas.  I’ve spent the past few hours celebrating my sister Melissa’s birthday and I’m just a wee bit tipsy but sober enough to type.  Fear not, I’m not drinking and blogging.  I’ve got jury duty tomorrow in downtown Dallas.  I really should follow the lead of Erin and pass out at this point. 

But, sometimes, you spot things online and you simply have to take the time to comment on them.  For example —

Fear not, all you neurotic, activist types.  Aliens have deactivated our nuclear arsenal.

Wow, that’s a relief.

I always find it interesting how quick people are to assume that, if aliens are visiting us, it’s because they want to keep us from blowing each other up or contributing to global warming.  I guess now that more and more people are coming to the conclusion that God isn’t going to show his face any time soon, aliens are the secular deus ex machina.

Of course, I guess it’s a bit easier to just put your faith in the aliens than to actually try to change human nature.

In the end, I think this article (and some of the comments left by other readers) says less about aliens and more about the fact that there’s a large segment of humanity who will believe anything as long as it’s 1) written down and 2) on the Internet. 

After all, they think, if it wasn’t true, why would anyone go through the trouble to actually record and publicize it?

Why indeed?

Sometimes, life is just strange.

The producers behind Sesame Street have decided not to air a clip in which Katy Perry engages in some sort of weird game with Elmo.

The reason had nothing to do with the fact that Elmo is kinda creepy and the implication of him and Katy Perry potentially doing it is the type of thing that could traumatize a young child for life.

Nor is the issue that, throughout the video, little pantsless Elmo more or less tries to hump Katy’s leg like a dog in heat.

No, the issue is that some concerned citizens apparently felt that Katy Perry was showing too much cleavage.  Here’s the video.  Depending on your own personal tolerance for Katy Perry, turn down the volume and judge for yourself.

After watching the video, all I can say is “Uhmm…really?” 

Okay, first off, they’re just breasts and there’s no reason to be ashamed (or scared) of them.  I usually display more cleavage just going to the grocery store than Katy does in that entire video.  So, I guess I’m a danger to children as well. 

I guess Katy’s cleavage might give a 14 year-old boy dirty thoughts but, quite frankly, I’d be more concerned about the fact that a 14 year-old boy is watching Sesame Street.  Is the target audience of Sesame Street really going to care that much about Katy Perry’s cleavage?  Perhaps if parents simply didn’t depend on television to raise their children, they wouldn’t have the time to waste worrying about the implications of televised cleavage.

It’s odd, really.  American society puts so much thought into our boobs yet it somehow gets offended whenever we do the same thing.  We’re told to keep (or make) them prominent but to somehow keep them hidden away as well, locked up as if they’re some sort of prize  to be won by only the noblest knight of the round table.

I’m sorry but they’re just boobs, not the Holy Grail.

First France bans the burqa.

Now Sesame Street has banned boobs.

Like I said, it’s a strange world.

I Am Not Alone

Today is Stop Self-Harm Day.

It’s easy to say “stop self-harm” but it’s far more difficult to actually do it.  I can’t sit here and toss out exact numbers and statistics on just how many people have intentionally harmed themselves in the past or are currently doing it right now.  I read somewhere that 4% of all hospital visits worldwide are the result of self-harm.  Don’t ask me who came up with that number or how they did it.  All I know for sure is there’s a lot of people out there who have hurt themselves in the past and are continuing to struggle with it today.  I’m one of them.

Looking back, I almost feel like there were two Lisas.  There’s the Lisa who eventually grew up to be the woman who is currently writing this post.  And then there’s this terribly sad, insecure girl who, starting at the age of 13, would go off by herself and try to hurt herself.  I used to tell myself that I really wasn’t trying to hurt myself because I very rarely actually drew blood.  Instead, I would just leave a frenzied patterns of angry, red scratches up and down my arms.  The few times I did open up my skin, the pain was so sudden and sharp that I immediately stopped what I was doing and swore that I would never do it again.  But, looking back, my intention was always to actually draw blood and I always felt like a coward when I couldn’t bring myself to push the sharpened edge against my skin just a little harder.  If I hadn’t had 3 sisters who I feared would walked in on me one day, I probably would have bled a lot more.

The question that’s always asked is “Why?”  Why would anyone want to intentionally harm themselves?  I think the general assumption is that its done for attention but I know I was horrified at the thought of anyone else finding out.  The morning after, I always made sure to wear long sleeves and if anyone did notice anything, I was very quick to blame it all on the cat.  At the same time, there was a part of me that hoped someone would notice and that someone would not only tell me to stop but give me a reason not to start again.

If you really wanted to go searching for an explanation, there’s a lot of possibilities.  I’m bipolar and, for as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with periods of intense depression (“my inner darkness,” as I used to refer to it in various adolescent poems).  You could probably link it to the fact that my Dad walked out on us around the same time I first started trying to hurt myself.  There’s other possibilities that I’m not going to go into and I’m sure they were all factors.  In the end, it all came down to the fact that, at that time, I felt that I didn’t deserve any better.

There was something else too, something that’s difficult for me to explain.  As much as I hated the initial pain, I loved the moment immediately after when that pain gradually faded away.  It was a feeling that told me that the worst was over and that I had survived.  At times, it almost seemed worth the pain to feel the peace that came after.

Fortunately — though it certainly didn’t seem so at the time — I had a major manic episode when I was 16 years old.  As a result, I spent the next two years “in therapy.”  Every weekend, I would spend an hour talking to a very nice man who lived conveniently close to Vista Ridge Mall.  Every Saturday, I told him about all of my fears, insecurities, and shame and then I spent the rest of the day shopping. 

Therapy works better for some than for others and I’m certainly not holding it up as the ultimate solution.  It worked well for me, though.  If you’ve ever been in therapy, then you know that one of the side effects is that — especially in the beginning — you want to tell everyone everything that you learned in your last session.  That was certainly the case with me.  Before then, I was always the type who would just try to hide behind my smile.  What?  How could you possibly think I was depressed or scared or insecure?  Can’t you see me smiling?  However, after my first few sessions, I realized that I didn’t have to always smile.  I learned that allowing people to see the real me — even in my darker moments — didn’t necessarily mean I would then be shunned and rejected. 

I wish I could say that, after I discovered that, I never again did anything to intentionally hurt myself.  But I can’t.  I’ve had relapses.  I’m not proud of them but I don’t hide them either.  If anything, they leave me ever more determined not to turn one defeat into a full surrender. 

It’s been over a year since the last time I intentionally hurt myself.  I would be lying if I said that I’m never tempted.   Fortunately, in just one year, a lot has changed in my life.  I no longer feel like depression or insecurity is somehow proof of failure on my part.  Instead, they’re just two of the many things that everyone has to deal with in life.  For the longest time, I felt that being self-destructive was the only way I could acknowledge the darkness that I knew was inside of me.  Whether I was hurting myself, abusing drugs, or allowing others to abuse me, it was all my way of saying that, deep inside, I was hurt.  It was my way of begging for help without actually asking for it.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to ask.

I always used to feel like a coward because I could rarely bring myself to draw blood.  What I didn’t realize, at the time, is that I was even more scared of asking for help.  I always felt that the people I loved would reject me if they ever found out just how depressed and worthless I truly felt.  There’s still a part of me that worries about that.  I guess it’s something that will never truly go away.

It’s hard for me to know how to end this essay.  I wish I could say something like, “And once I started opening up to my loved ones, all of my inner darkness just magically faded away and I never hurt myself again.”  But it’s never that simple.  I still live my life under the constant shadow of being bipolar.  I still struggle with the darkness.  I know that I’m still not a 100% “well” and chances are, I never will be.

But I also know that I’m not alone and, in many ways, that makes all the difference in the world.

I’m not alone.

Now seems to be the time that people both online and off are feeling the need to let the world know how and for whom they’ll be voting in the November general election.  I received an e-mail earlier today from someone who I haven’t spoken to in over two years.  He just wanted to let me know that he was voting for Bill White in the Texas governor’s race.  I sent him a three-word reply: “Thanks for sharing.”  My boss, meanwhile, has a “Perry for Governor” bumper sticker on the back of his Prius.  He showed it to me when we went to lunch earlier today.  I smiled politely, my silent way of saying “Thanks for sharing.”

Needless to say, 2010 will be remembered as a very angry year as far as politics are concerned.  As of late, I’ve found myself being asked by several people where I stand politically.  I think I tend to confuse them because I’ll often follow a liberal sentiment with a conservative statement.  They can’t figure out if I’m a right-winger or a left-winger.  Nothing upsets insecure people more than when someone can’t be easily categorized, labeled, or stereotyped.

(I’ve also noticed, oddly enough, that conservatives tend to assume that I’m liberal while liberals assume that I’m conservative.  Either way, they all seem to assume that, from their point-of-view, I’m wrong.) 

I don’t consider myself to be an activist.  I have my own political beliefs and I’m not necessarily shy about voicing them.  However, unlike a lot of people, I don’t force my politics on others nor do I judge people based solely on the signs they have sitting out in their front yard.  I have friends who are Democrats and I have friends who are Republicans.  Whenever talk turns to the last election, I just coyly smile and say that I didn’t vote for either McCain or Obama in the last election. 

Political posturing seems to bring out the worst in people.  As of late, I’ve had to spend way too much time listening to people accuse Obama of being a Muslim or Sarah Palin of being a Nazi.  I’m tired of it.  I’m sick of liberals who assume that the ticket to paradise (which, I assume, is full of vestal virgins) can be purchased by mouthing a bunch of slogans and platitudes.  I’m sick of conservatives who are so convinced that only they can save the country.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not “disgusted” or “sickened” or “offended” by any of it.  I’m just bored.

Some people have embraced the politics of anger and some people have embraced the politics of compassion.  As for me, I’ve decided to embrace the politics of boredom.

I’m bored with being told that, as a woman and a feminist, I must naturally be a Democrat.  I’m bored with being told that, as a Texan, I must naturally be a Republican. 

The only thing that I will ever naturally be is myself.

I’ll be voting in the 2010 election.  As for who I’ll be voting for that’s for me to know and you not to worry about.  My sisters know how I’m voting.  One of them agrees with me.  The other two do not.  The Bowman Sisters will be cancelling each other out this election year so, if you think I’m not voting for your candidate, you can probably take some comfort in that.

We live in a world where everyone can be — and apparently is — a political pundit.  Online, people can reinvent themselves as “Pissed Off Tea Partier” and “Self-Righteous Liberal” and “Wanna-Be Libertine” or “Anarchist Pyromaniac.” 

More power to them. 

I’m perfectly happy just being Lisa.

Yes, this is another one of those silly and ultimately pointless online surveys that, for whatever reason, give me so much joy.

I have to admit though that I’ve noticed a disturbing trend whenever I go searching for silly online surveys.  Along with the expected purity tests, when-will-you-die predictions, and “who is your celebrity boob twin” reports, I’ve discovered that all of my favorite quiz sites have been infected by thousands of different surveys all concerning one human being.

That human being is Justin Bieber.

Every site I go to now seems to be full of surveys designed to let me know just how likely it is that I will some day end up as Mr. Lisa Marie Bieber.  What’s disturbing is that, if the surveys are to be believed, the chances are pretty good.

Now, to be honest, I have no desire to marry Justin Bieber.  First off, I don’t know that I ever want to get married, secondly, I tend to prefer older men and third, from what I’ve seen on TMZ, he kinda sorta appears to be a little dumbfug toadsucker.

Still, it disturbs me that I’m going to be 25 on November 9th of this year and already, I find myself thinking “What’s wrong with kids today?”  When did I become an adult and why didn’t anyone warn me ahead of time?

Anyway, considering that I’m apparently getting older, it’s perhaps appropriate that I took a survey of my fears.

Measure Your Fears – Would You, Wouldn’t You, You Did
Created by beindthecurtain and taken 62405 times on Bzoink
Pet a snake: Wouldn’t
Spend a week in an empty room: Would
Ride in a hot-air balloon: Did
Sky dive: Wouldn’t
Sing in front of a huge audience: Did
scuba dive: Wouldn’t
Sit in the front seat of a roller coaster: Wouldn’t
Deliver a baby: Would
Swim across the Amazon River: Wouldn’t
Change careers: Would
Disappear for a long period of time: Did
Walk through the forest alone at night: Did
Join a space mission: Wouldn’t
Tell everyone what you honestly think of them: Did
Call off your wedding: Did, kinda. Long story.
Walk naked through New York City for 10 minutes during rush hour: Would
Walk up to Mike Tyson and call him a girl: Wouldn’t
Disarm a bomb: Wouldn’t
CLean the outside windows of a skyscraper: Wouldn’t
Draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa with a permanent marker: Wouldn’t but not because of fear. I don’t deface art.
Go on tour with Elvis: Wouldn’t
Go swimming during a thunder storm: Wouldn’t, can’t swim
Preform surgury on your best friend: Would but my friend would die
You’ve been totally Bzoink*d!
Take This Survey | Search Surveys | Create a Survey

(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor.  However, I do see a doctor on a fairly regular basis and I am a certified hypochondriac.  And I did watch the first season of Grey’s Anatomy as well as every single season of Lost, which featured several medically trained characters.)

ADD: Six Dexedrine a day

Asthma: Inhaler, ProAir

Bipolar Disorder: Lithium (use at your own risk)

OCD: Clean, clean, clean

Panic Attacks: Count to 10, Close eyes tight

Back Pain: Advil, Upgrade to a D-cup

Ankle Pain: Darvocet

Hyperopia: Contact lenses, glasses, squinting

Hunger: Sweet-and-sour chicken

Lack of Appetite: Lay off the speed

Cold: A big old comforter with a colorful floral design, Absorbing body heat

Hot: Air conditioning, Less clothes, No clothes

Underweight: Binge, Don’t Purge

Overweight: Diet, Walk, Gym, Wear black, Stay home

Sleepy: 10 capsules of Dexedrine every 6 hours

Insomnia: Dramamine

Insecurity: Black thong panties, a camera, and the bathroom mirror

Vanity: Stand in front of bathroom mirror, hold a ruler up to your nose.

Happy: Fox News, MSNBC, CNN

Sad: Movies, Cats, Shopping (Half-Price Books, Fry’s, Clare’s, Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters, H&M, The Limited, Victoria’s Secret), Drinking, Flirtation, Leave before he wakes up

Dry: Sitting in a dark movie theater with a friend

Wet: Always bring an extra pair of panties

Calm: Run in circles

Tense: Massage, Brownies

Period: Midol, Aleve, Vicodin, Tampax Pearl, Profanity and tears (if early), Panic (if late)

Straight: Perm, Rainy day, Curling iron, Fall into bed

Curly: Desert wind, Conair SS9

Conservative: Get laid

Liberal: Get dumped.

Lack of Creativity: Theft

Excessive Creativity: Isolation

Blandness: Suicide (Yes, that does seem like a bit extreme of a cure.  It also provides a wonderful incentive not to be bland, don’t you think?)

If the above cures don’t help, don’t call me in the morning.  You’ll just bring us both down.

I used to love to read the Proust Questionnaires that would appear in the back of Vanity Fair magazine.  The questionnaire, which was popularized by the French writer Marcel Proust, is made up of 20 questions that, when answered, are supposed to reveal who you are as a human being. 

Vanity Fair, of course, always enlists some celebrity to answer the Proust Questionnaire and occasionally, they make for interesting reading.  After you read enough of them, you come to realize that the Proust Questionnaire doesn’t so much reveal who someone is as much as it reveals who that person wants you to think he or she is.  The Questionnaire is less about the real person and more about the various personas that all of us — famous or not — tend to adopt in order to survive from day-to-day.  The Proust Questionnaire is ultimately less about who we are and more about who we think we are.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to fill out the Proust Questionnaire myself so that’s what I’m going to do right now.  Who needs Vanity Fair when you’ve got wordpress, eh?

(I should add that what I’m answering below is Vanity Fair’s version of the Proust Questionnaire.  Much like the purity test, there’s several different versions.  By the way, the last purity test I took said I was still 6% pure so yay me!)

Lisa Marie Bowman’s

Proust Questionnaire

1) What is your idea of perfect happiness?

For me, perfect happiness would be to live in a nice, spacious loft with a movie theater and a used book store located on the floors below me.  I’d spend my days writing and/or reading and my nights at the movies.  Every weekend, I’d throw a huge party that would inevitably end up with all of my friends hanging out on the roof into the long hours of the night.  And then, once I got bored with the party, I would say, “Go home!” and everyone would have to leave.

2) What is your greatest fear?

Becoming a boring, bland, anonymous person who settles for security at the cost of my own independence.

3) Which historical figure do you most identity with?

Sylvia Plath.

4) Which living person do you most admire?

There’s actually three and I admire and love them all far too much to rank one over the other.  They are my three older sisters — Erin, Melissa, and Megan.

5) What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Far too often, I’m self-centered, selfish, moody, and way too needy.

6) What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Banality.

7) What is your greatest extravagance?

Life.

8 ) On what occasion do you lie?

On occasions that I’m later ashamed to remember.

9) What do you dislike most about your appearance?

My nose.

10) When and where were you happiest?

The summer after I graduated high school, traveling through Europe and especially Italy.

11) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would allow myself to let go of all the anger and sadness that has built up inside me over the past few years.

12) If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

My mom would still be with us.

13) What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I’m alive, stable, and independent.  I’ve never given into the temptation to just settle for what everyone claims will make me happy.

14) If you died and came back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

If God likes me, I’ll come back as a cat.  If he doesn’t like me, I’ll come back as myself but with an even larger nose.

15) What is your most treasured possession?

My mind.

16) What do you regard as being the lowest depth of misery?

Being anonymous and forgotten.

17) Who are your heroes in real life?

My sisters.

18) What is it the you most dislike?

Being talked down to.

19) How would you like to die?

I wouldn’t. 

20) What is your motto?

Stay supple.

 

France Bans The Veil

The French Senate has passed a new law that will ban the wearing of the full Islamic facial veil in public.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, the burqa and all the various burqa accessories has always struck me as being the perfect symbol of repression, oppression, and sexism.  For me, there would be no greater nightmare than to know that every day would have to be spent bundled up and hidden away.  Maybe I’d feel differently if I came from an Islamic background but, quite frankly, I hope not.

Last week, I was, quite frankly, disgusted by an obscure pastor who announced that he was planning on publicly burning the Koran on the anniversary of 9-11.  To be honest, I probably would have been a little bit more supportive if he had been burning a burqa.

On the other hand, I can’t help but read this story and think about my St. Vitus medal.  The medal was a gift from my mom on my 15th birthday.  She gave it to me because St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers and when I was 15, that was my life.  Nine years later, I only dance for fun and I’m no longer a practicing Catholic.  But I still wear my medal nearly every day and I still feel far more confident when it’s around my neck than when it isn’t.  Whenever I wear it, I just feel more confident and happy.  When I wear it, I feel as if my mom’s spirit is with me.

When I first read about the possibility that France might ban the full veil, I found myself wondering how I’d react if France had banned the wearing of religious medals.  Consider that the one of the arguments for banning the veil was that France is a “secular” society.  The same argument could be used to support banning anything that could be considered to be an expression of religious faith regardless of whether the wearer shared that faith or not.  While I — and many others — view the facial veil as a symbol of oppression, there are just as many people who would make the same argument about the crucifix that I have hanging beside my bed.

I’ve often wondered about why I continue to put that crucifix on the wall.  Why do I still occasionally go to mass?  Why do I wear my Vitus medal?  As I said before, I’m no longer a practicing Catholic or, to be honest, a believer in any sort of higher power.  However, it’s unthinkable to me to throw out all the symbols of my former beliefs.  Beyond any theological belief, it’s the culture I was raised in and when I look at that crucifix, it reminds me of who I am and where I came from.  Regardless of whether I still consider myself to be a part of that culture, it still played a large role — both good and bad — in shaping who I am today.

However, many people would say that Catholicism is oppressive and evil.  Many people would say that by wearing that medal, I’m supporting child molesters and homophobia.  They would say that the fact that I’m an unbeliever doesn’t matter.  They would say that as long as I wear that medal with those words — Pray For Us — I am supporting the Vatican and everything that the Vatican has ever done and will ever do.  Those people would applaud my losing the right to wear it as enthusiastically as others would applaud the banning of the facial veil.

I guess my ultimate feeling about this is that women, regardless of their religious beliefs, should have the right to wear whatever they want.  I would be a lot more enthusiastic about a law that said women could not be forced to wear the veil as opposed to a law that states that women are not allowed to wear them.

Hey, It’s World Literacy Day

Sept. 8th, 2010 is World Literacy Day.

So, go read a book.

Even better, write one of your own.

Then send me a copy.

I’d love to read it.

Well, here we are.  It’s Labor Day, 2010.  Was it everything you hoped it would be?

It wasn’t for me, largely because I originally thought that Labor Day was yesterday as opposed to today.  My sister Erin informed me of my error on Sunday morning as we drove out to my uncle’s place.  Apparently, Labor Day Weekend is a separate holiday from Labor Day.

Personally, I tend to take my holidays for granted.  It’s rare that I ever give much thought to why we celebrate a holiday.  I just celebrate it.  This is especially true as far as Labor Day is concerned.  Seriously, what the Hell are we celebrating?  I checked on Wikipedia earlier today and, having read the article, I can still say that I have no idea.

The nearest I can figure is that Labor Day is the day when the middle and upper classes honor the lower class by taking a day off work.

Personally, I’ve always found that just the name “Labor Day” brings to mind some dreary state-enforced holiday in some Marxist dictatorship somewhere.  That’s one reason why I always make it a point to observe Labor Day by wearing red underwear.

Both me and Erin have spent this Labor Day at my sister Melissa’s house where we’ve had the honor of babysitting our niece Shannon while Melissa was at work. 

If anyone deserved to have this holiday off, it’s Melissa.  Melissa is a little over four years older than me and she is one of the strongest women I know.  Back when I was just a painfully shy little girl who hid her face behind a mass of red hair and who spoke with a humiliating stutter, Melissa was my protector.  Anyone who so much as even thought about picking on me was running the risk of inviting the wrath of my big sister. 

I remember growing up, I always wanted to be strong and confident like Melissa, even though I would certainly never actually tell her that.  And now, two decades later, Melissa’s is still my hero and my role model.  When I watch her with Shannon, I feel like I understand what it truly means to be a strong woman. 

But still, Melissa — like most Americans who are lucky enough to have a job right now — had to work on the day that is meant to honor her.  Now me, I would have probably thrown one of my patented spoiled-little-brat fits if I had to work today while everyone else got to take off.  And I imagine if I had, Melissa would have been the first person to tell me to knock it off.  I have never heard Melissa complain about having to go to work every day even though I know she’d rather be home with her daughter.  I have never seen Melissa indulge in a single second of self-pity even though I know that she, as a single mother, has to deal with things that I probably can’t even begin to imagine.  When I talk to Melissa, she doesn’t tell me about her daily frustrations or difficulties.  Instead, she tells me how much she loves her daughter.  Well, that and she usually tells me not to stay up so late.  She’s still protecting me and I don’t tell her enough that I love her for that (even if it does drive me crazy at the time).

Out of me and my three sisters, Melissa has always been the one who most resembled our mom.  Melissa’s got mom’s beautiful, dark hair (I used to be so jealous!) and her earthy laugh.  But she got something else too.  Ever since mom left us, I’ve come to realize that Melissa inherited mom’s strength and courage as well.  Though Melissa and I have very different interests (I can spend hours talking about Big Brother and Project Runway whereas Melissa might turn on her TV once or twice a week) and we certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on everything (if you ever see the two of us starting to talk about politics, hide!), she’s still the strong, brave woman that I hope to some day become.

As I sit here in the living room, typing on my laptop, I can here Melissa and Erin setting the kitchen table for dinner.  After we eat, Erin and I have a long drive back to our place.  So, I’m going to go eat with my sisters and then I’m going to hug my niece and say goodbye.

And later tonight, before I go to bed, I’m going to think about how lucky I was to spend today with Melissa, Shannon, and Erin.

For me, that’s what makes this day special.

Happy Labor Day.

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